September 29, 2010 (this day)

Today was a very hectic day of the kind I do not like.  I had to go to another location for a work meeting, then to work, followed by two hours of training.  After I got home, Carole and I had pizza then took the dog to the pet food store to buy food, bought ourselves ice cream, came home and watched Survivor.  Now I’m going to bed.  Tomorrow I have to leave work early to go to the dentist.  I’m hoping for good news at the dentist but not counting on it.  I am counting on feeling so lousy after the dentist that I won’t want to do anything else the rest of tomorrow night.

In Step Eight (Step Twelve continued)

In Step Eight, we continued our housecleaning, for we saw that we were not only in conflict with ourselves, but also with  people and situations in the world in which we lived.  We began to make our peace, and so we listed the people we had harmed and became willing to set things right.

And just that quickly, just like that, it turns.  My serenity of a few days ago is gone, and mostly because of a conflict I’m in with people and situations in the world.

What were my conflicts back then, when I was drinking.  Well I conflicted pretty well with the married man I was sleeping with, and I guess I’ve had enough AA to see that I was not accepting reality there.  My mother was difficult to live with.  Whose mother is not?  Again, acceptance.  Of course I had a world of trouble functioning when I was blind drunk, but I didn’t blame the world for that one.

And now?  Yes, still, more.  Reading this part of the 12 and 12, I had one of those stellar moments when I was very sure I am not living up to my sobriety, and I should never again let anyone know how much time I have.

Staying in the Now

I tried a small experiment.  After I looked to see what I wanted to write about, and finding it to be “staying in the now,” I tried to stay in the now, to write about it.  But the writing was in the future, and now the thinking about it was in the past.

For a few moments, I could just think about “now.”  It’s Sunday morning, and most of what I know about, is well.  I live near some churches and I heard their Sunday morning sounds.  The sounds of my little town where coming through the windows.  The weather was cool, my bed was warm.  I did enjoy the “now,” the feeling was just so fleeting before my mind jumped back to the past or ahead to the future.

I’ve mostly learned to greet every worry I have with the knowledge that whatever it is I envision may not come to be, may not be as bad or as good as I think it will be, and I may also forget the excitement of looking forward to something or looking forward with dread.

So I don’t spend huge amounts of time going over something past or thinking about something in the future.  Often thoughts of the past or future were so distressing to me that I drank to tolerate them or even, sadly, to render myself unable to think.  Aside from a few very harsh moments in my life time, my “now” has always been pretty good.

So, now I’m older and more practiced at living in the now.  Now I think, at times, about taking another step forward in my thinking and in my being.  Now, at times, I think about the extra step I can take now, to help someone or build a relationship or ease someone’s way.

For me, this is an evolved thought, how to live better in the now.  I can pause at times and decide to do more, now.  Admittedly, it’s often because I want to avoid some pain I’ve experienced in the past.

A saying that at times I hang in my office to remind me:

Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.  ~ Theodore Roosevelt

September 24, 2010 (this day)

It’s still very hot, but apparently a cold front is on the way.  This summer has been very hard on my weather sense.  I truly hope the fall is better.  I don’t usually get so unhappy with the weather.  In fact, I usually like it.  I’m hoping to like it again in a few hours.

Erika is working her way through her car catastrophe on her own, and she’s doing it well.  I’m calmer, and I’ll be really glad to hear she has the darn car back and all is well.  Carole and I are going to go see her in few weeks.  I think all this anxiety around her car in the very beginning will help me appreciate the quiet later.  I hope it will.

Just thinking about it, everything at this moment is pretty calm.  I know it won’t last, but my family is good, my job is good, my body is as good as it gets.  And the weather is turning.  Autumn is nigh.

Then, In Step Seven (Step Twelve continued)

Then, in Step Seven, we humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings such as He could or would under the conditions of the day we asked.

I don’t think I remember ever thinking about the conditions of the day we asked.

I’m slightly baffled.  I was listening to the Big Book and something in “To the Wives” made me think about some people we know who are struggling with chronic relapse over the course of many years.  Something in there said something like, “Either God has removed [your husband’s] obsession to drink, or God has not.”

With the obsession to drink, the only sense I can make of why some people have the desire removed and some don’t is that some are open to having it removed, as evidenced by, among other things, lengths they will go to in working the program, and some aren’t open to, and can’t achieve it.

For the other myriad character defects, I do wonder why we have to struggle, knowing we’ll never reach the place where we will have them completely removed.  That probably seems a bit like asking why are humans human?

I have no idea what the conditions of the day refers to.  Maybe because I never thought about it before.

More is constantly being revealed.

Staying Away from the First Drink

Because it is the first drink that gets you drunk!

In painfully typical alcoholic fashion, I tried to regulate my drinking.  One popular method is to count drinks and stop at some certain point.  This seldom worked for me, and it was truly no kind of solution.  The first drink clouded my mind and usually after starting to drink, I lost my judgment.  One more, a little bit more, just a little something else and I gone.  Without the first drink I can never get drunk.

It’s pretty obvious to me now that alcohol is poison, and I’m not going to win when I try to figure out how much I can have without crossing some line.  I won’t try just a little poison to see if that’s too much.  It is too much, and if I don’t go off the deep end each and every time, I will go sooner or later.

When I tried to regulate my drinking by drinking things that had low alcohol content, within a short time I was drinking the hardest stuff I could find.  I never liked the taste of alcohol, and my pitiful intention to not get so far gone by drinking milder stuff went right out the window when the alcohol hit my brain.  That first drink, no matter how weak, got me drunk.  I don’t have the first one, and I don’t get drunk.

And Then It Got Worse (this day)

And then it got worse.

That’s a joke around these parts about what to say when you’re telling your story, giving your lead, and you lose your train of thought.  Because with alcohol and the alcoholic, it always gets worse.

And with sobriety and the alcoholic, it always gets better.  I know I’m not the only one, though, who often feels a bit behind because I also raise the bar on what is good, what is good enough.

A few days ago, I was worried about Erika’s car.  It needed what seemed to be expensive repairs, and I don’t trust the mechanics, and I don’t trust the car, and I felt like I couldn’t be peaceful until she had her car and it was OK.  She lives far away from me now, and she has no one to help her, really, and she needs to the car to get to school and work.  Although, to make me even more worried, she will walk to school and work.

Anyway after much anxiety not a little money, she got her car Friday morning.  Saturday night she was going out with some new friends (yay!) and she had her first car accident.

No one was hurt.  No one was hurt.  No one was hurt.  She was very shaken up and honestly, I tried to be brave.  Maybe I should note here that I’ve never had a car accident.  I’ve scraped my car on things, including my mother’s car, but I haven’t yet had an accident.

This morning she called and let me know that her car is drivable, and she has an appointment with the insurance person for a preliminary estimate, and her deductible is $500, and the other guy is insured. and the preliminary estimator may be able to recommend a mechanic, and she’ll consider renting a car  while this gets sorted.

Last night, when she called to let us know this had happened, we were with nine people from AA, at the meeting after the meeting.  Of course in AA as everywhere people are immediately grateful that no one was hurt.  One guy said something along the lines “you don’t mess with the mothers,” meaning he wouldn’t try to tell a woman upset about her child that “it’ll be OK” or some other platitude.

Another guy had the nerve to say something like, “She’ll handle it.”

I said, “What if she can’t?”

He said, “Then you’ll go help her.”

Oh, yeah.  Actually, my job would let me do that, my wife would let me do that, I have the resources to do that.

I know I have focused a lot of my anxiety about Erika moving away on her car.  Cars make me anxious in any case.  For many years, I kept my old car around, just to have an extra.  Just in case.  I miss it.  So this debacle is striking me in a very bad place.  All I need now is for her to get a sinus infection and I’ll have had to face my worst scenarios.

I also have to confess that I can be a bit superstitious about the things I worry about.  Friday, when I was anxious over her repair bill, I could almost hear karma planning something worse for me.  Like, you want something to worry about?  Here’s something to worry about.  Like it will get worse until I can internalize and believe that we are all OK in this situation.  And if we are all OK, I am so much better off than a huge number of my fellow human beings.  That at times we haven’t all been OK and still, it’s been OK.

How lucky am I to understand that right now, there’s something wrong with me?  And even luckier, I believe there is a solution.

At Step Six, Many of Us Balked (Step Twelve continued)

At Step Six, many of us balked–for the practical reason that we did not wish to have all our defects of character removed, because we still loved some of them too much.  Yet we knew we had to make a settlement with the fundamental principle of Step Six.  So we decided that while we still had some flaws of character that we could not yet relinquish, we ought nevertheless to quit our stubborn, rebellious hanging on to them.  We said to ourselves, “This I cannot do today, perhaps, but I can stop crying out ‘No, never!'”

I want to say this doesn’t resonate with me, but I guess it does.  I considered myself to be hung up on step six for literally years.  For example, I haven’t spoken to my mother’s husband since I was around nine years old, and I didn’t plan to.  Knowing that this showed a pretty awesome character defect in me, I felt I couldn’t say I had taken step six.

I know someone like this in the program now.  I’ve written about Phyllis before, and she came into the program three years ago, at the age of 70.  Phyllis has some big, bad resentments against some relatives, and won’t consider trying to forgive them, so won’t consider any of the steps, really, even the first.

Personally I had “worked” the first five and much of the last six.  And really, isn’t doing an honest third step really taking the sixth as well?

Sponsorship (my fourth and most recent sponsor, and the way it is for me today)

Guinevere’s comment has spurred me on to continue.  Thank you so much.

There was one more person I asked to sponsor me so far.  Sofie was a friend of my ill-fated second sponsor, Florence.  Sofie has known me almost from the beginning.  When, at a year sober, I moved thousands of miles away, Sofie kept in touch back in the days when that meant taking out a pen, writing a letter, putting a stamp on it and mailing it.  I usually saw her when I went home for visits.  When I had seven or eight years and moved back, she did become a friend, and I did ask her to be my sponsor.   She has several years more than I do sober.

Now especially in light of Guinevere’s comment, I’m afraid that what I have to say won’t be popular.  I’m afraid of steering fragile newcomers, especially those who are looking for a softer, easier way, the wrong way, giving them an out that will kill them.

I had a very good sponsor when I was new in the program.  I needed a very good sponsor when I was new in the program.  I think that the system of sponsorship is one of the reasons that AA is successful at all, for anyone.

But I don’t have a sponsor now, and I haven’t for a long time, though Sofie is still a friend who I am in touch with.  I have to say that most of the oldtimers I know and who I see, most of them, either have an ancient sponsor who has been with them for decades, or they don’t have a sponsor.

I see oldtimers who desperately want a sponsor try and try again, and it usually doesn’t work out.  Even when it works out it doesn’t work out.  People become friends.  That’s great!  AA friends are the best.  And I also believe that AA friends can and should and do help me work the steps and practice the program.  But they don’t sponsor me.

This is totally my opinion only.  I really think that times have changed.  I know that they have, and that we no longer contact clergy, doctors, and police to find alcoholics who need a meeting.  If we did contact these people, HIPPA would prevent them from throwing any prospects our way.  It’s just not the way it was when there were no meetings, or few meetings, when our instruction book was written.

When Ebby drank, did Bill get another sponsor?

I truly think that after several years of sobriety, people in my time and place have a grasp of the program and no longer need a sponsor.  Some of us may need a spiritual adviser, a good friend, a best friend, a special friend.  But not a sponsor.

There are other aspects of the sponsorship of newcomers that make me cringe and that I feel are sometimes actually hurtful.  But in general, I do think newcomers benefit from having the modern-day version of a sponsor.  After that newness is gone, it’s my opinion that a serious and sober chase of the program, including cultivating important relationships in the program, is harder, better, and more important than having a sponsor.

Scaring Myself with What-If Scenarios (this day)

I must interrupt this history of my sponsors to record that I’m having a very tough time.  Note:  Tough times for me do not include thoughts of or wishes for alcohol or other drugs.

And I know, I mean I’m pretty sure that I know, that I stuff worry and focus it and deny it and push it away and back it comes.  Honestly, my daughter has moved far away and it feels, if I let myself feel it, like a bandage that has adhered to a huge and awful wound being pulled off again and again.  It’s that bad.

I have no idea what kind of piece of work I’d be without the program, assuming I’d be alive, which I wouldn’t.  On the radio this morning I heard of parents having their sons remains exhumed from Arlington Cemetery to make sure they are actually his.  This 19-year-old died after three weeks in Iraq.  In her college town, Erika tells about someone she goes to school with who is from Vietnam.  Her parents came with her when she first got here and I just cannot imagine the fear and worry and gratitude they must be experiencing.

I know it’s not bad.  I know it is good.  I tell Carole that I want Erika to come home, and she tells me, “No, you don’t,” and she’s right.  I don’t.  I couldn’t keep her safe when she was home, I can’t keep her safe now, and yet she is safe now, though of course that could change.  Let go and let God.  Trust outcomes to the spirit.  I guess I did more than a million things right in raising that girl, and there’s proof in the way I am suffering now.

And, selfishly, I really really want relief from this worry and yes, this pain.

My what-if scenarios are quite stupid in their limitations.  At no time during my life could I have imagined what Erika would be like and what she would become.  I could not have dreamed up such an amazing person and if someone else tried to describe her to me as their daughter, I wouldn’t believe them.

I don’t know if I should feel it, sort of try to touch the bottom and come back up, or push the pain out with gratitude, of which I have an abundance, but maybe not enough.

I do know, though, what the next right thing is, and I’m going to go do it now.